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Trail and Enduro Bikes

Orange Alpine 160 – Six Months In

Crankworx finalist ‘Iron’ Ieuan Williams has been giving the Orange Alpine a working over for six months.

‘Iron’ Ieuan Williams has been giving the Orange Alpine a working over for six months. The Crankworx finalist takes us through his build.

By: Ieuan Williams Photos: Callum Philpott

Choosing a bike is never an easy task to undertake. Deciding on a long term test bike for Dirt was pretty tough but a reasonably easy choice. What was I considering though when lining up my bike?

A full-on hard hitting enduro bike that needed to be reliable and strong was first and foremost on my list. Weight was not a top priority, I was undecided on carbon or aluminium and price….well it’s a test bike that I’d be riding many times a week, uplifting, travelling with and generally getting decked with different parts on a regular basis for shakedown purposes. For me there was only one place to go and that was to Orange for an Alpine 160.

When considered on function there are not many frames that come close to this bike. The Alpine 160 stood out for me as a frame choice for its supreme reliability and predictable ride characteristic. To many people’s eyes it is not a beauty queen, as we’ve heard so many times, but as a tool to get the job done it’s exceptional.

The weight of the bike comes down to the parts selected, but with a build based more around descending this was not particularly top on my list – the Orange Alpine 160 came in at 30.9lb – light enough with no compromise on strength of parts.

This is the type of weight that even high end 160mm plastic builds would be happy with, it’s a bike that we have discriminated as hard on parts as much as Orange have refined the single pivot design. Do not be fooled by the simplicity and industrial looking welds this really is an evolved bike, learned from taking several World Cup downhill series wins, and a year on year tune to the suspension system.

From a maintenance point of view unlike other more complex frame designs it costs £20 for the bearing kit and should only take a few moments to change if you have the correct tools. The final piece that sold this bike to me however was seeing the bike that was built for the Dirt 100 with the attention to detail put into the build with the colour matching and specification. As I stood on that wet Welsh hillside last winter I just wanted to have a slice of that even though I was surrounded by some quite exotic equipment.

Suspension

Part of the reasoning with choosing the Orange Alpine 160 is that it is an easy to understand bike but one which still depends on a good damper to get the best from the bike, so a key part of the build. I feel a Fox Float X damper as a benchmark for this bike with the plush and sensitive start to the travel and its ability to compliment the slightly linear shock curve that the frame offers by ramping up at the end of its stroke, this teamed up with the ability to almost lock the shock out completely makes it a great go to damper.

But there was a chance to try out some new equipment. After some testing a BOS Kirk has been serious work to try and set it up to work with the Orange, having to strip it several times to change the preload and even after some time getting to know the shock with all the compression turned off there is still a feeling that there is some resistance stopping the smooth feel that the Fox had. There is also an issue with the lockout on this damper, in the lockout position it made no difference to the feel it just made a squeak. Fox will be staying on for now.

Up front again the original Fox 36 fork has been the preferred unit but ive been running a BOS Deville FCV Enduro Fork with the 35mm stanchions and plenty of adjustment. It looked promising and straight out of the box these forks felt incredible – supple, smooth and offering excellent hold a key factor that is needed in a hard hitting fork of this kind. There did seem to be more flex in the BOS fork in comparison to the Fox 36 and the reliability has not been brilliant, where I found the fork losing its support after a few weeks of use and having to up the pressure by 60 psi to keep some shape. It’s likely there’s a fault in the damper of the fork so this set will be sent off to be inspected while the non-FCV fork can be fitted for a comparison. Every set of the standard BOS Deville fork that I have used previously have felt great, and so far the same applies for the standard Deville – the better fork it seems.

For now the Fox set up is top of the pile with the Float X with the Evol can on at the rear and the Fox 36 fork up front even though the Rockshox Lyrik and Manitou Mattoc have pushed it close. The Fox complimented the single pivot design and the more linear shock curve that this current model offers but crucially was reliable and easy to set up.

Specification

Zelvy Carbon wheels gets things rolling, since we wanted some extended riding on these wheels and they were fitted to a previous bike and have been faultless since day one. Other than the fact that the carbon wheel was a great weight at under 1800 grams the 35mm external rim diameter it gives a great stance to the tyre when fitted. The rims have taken some serious abuse in the likes of Bike Park Wales where the rock destroys most wheels. The Chris King hubs have just needed some minor adjustments in the eight months to keep the bearings play free and running super fast with minimal rolling resistance. They have been nothing short of a revelation, a superb wheel package .

Gearing has been taken care of by SRAM with the cheaper but by no means poor quality GX 11 speed derailleur, shifter and cassette. The GX has been fantastic in the few months that it has been used with a quality of shifting that you’d normally expect from a top quality XX1 set. The only down side to the GX derailleur is that the clutch has become weak faster than it would on an X0 or XX1 equivalent but the chain has not fallen off and there is no chain slap. Nothing short of highly recommended.

Crankset, brakes and finishing kit has been handled by Hope Tech, and we really feel this is how the bike should be delivered. The Hope Tech E4 brakes in the custom orange colour worked as good as they look and haven’t skipped a beat after setting them up with a 200mm front rotor for the extra power up front and a 180mm rear to keep a good balance front to rear. We’re currently still on the original organic pads that come in the brake and haven’t needed bleeding even when shortening the hose when fitted. The best part about this Hope system is the lever adjustment because the ability to adjust the reach and bite point on the lever blade makes it super easy to get a good equal feel to both brakes even when the pads are wearing at different rates. This is a very important thing to get spot on when making the cockpit comfy.

To match up with the orange Hope Tech theme there is a set of the spiderless crankset. I opted for 170mm arms to give good ability for some power through the drive. Bottom bracket wise with the Hope having no problem sorting the 78mm frame with some more orange bling. Hope 30 tooth narrow wide chainring transferring the power to the rear wheel. The crankset is beautifully machined with no detail left out even with the packaging, all tools that are needed to fit them included. Great touch. These take some setting up at first where the arms came loose a few times as the internal bolt was not tightened up far enough to hold the splines tight enough before the arms were tightened up but after some fettling they have settled in just fine with no sign of wear on the graphic even after constant use.

In the cockpit attached to the Hope Tech 35mm stem – after swapping between the 50mm and 35mm I found the shorter stem gave a better body position and kept the bike feeling lively – is a set of Renthal Carbon DH bars at 780mm. I tried a few different bars before coming to the decision of the Renthal, having a comfy rise and back sweep these fit in with this build perfectly and keep the weight down. A set of DMR Brendan Deathgrips in the narrow width keep my hands on the bar with a soft compound. At first I was not sure about the raised inner part of the grip but have since realised it improves the comfort. The camo colour did help the decision.

A 150mm RockShox Reverb finishes off the parts list and keeps the transition between the climbing and descending smooth and swift. Getting the hose through the frame on some bikes can be a pain but using some intelligence and experience by running a gear cable through before to guide the hose makes light work of things. There as possibly more reliable posts to chose such as the Specialized Command post but I have not had a single problem from any Reverbs that have been used.

 

 

Feeling

After spending some considerable time looking at the Orange Alpine it was taken out and given hell. It is just a great balance between a planted super fast bike and something you can just go and play about with on any type of trail. It is not the greatest bike for climbing up the hills but this is dependent on the damper that is fitted with a good lockout system/tune being critical to the climbing aspect of the ride. The lock out on the BOS Kirk damper was not efficient however the Fox was faultless.

The Alpine could be considered a bit over the top for some of the more mellow UK trails but when you point the nose down that hill it comes into its own and just inspires confidence letting you concentrate on the job at hand, riding.

It is a crazy thing to think that out of all of the bikes that I have had the opportunity to ride in the past year with Dirt this is what it boils down to, the fact that Orange have nailed a bike with a perfect flex stiffness harmony while keeping the reliability and silence that you would expect from any of the top brands. The only part on this build that has disappointed is the BOS dampers, but we’re currently having better luck with the standard Deville. The Chris King with Zelvy Carbon wheelset have just been faultless in look and build quality and as for all the products from Hope I couldn’t ask for more, sublime braking in both power and modulation and a crankset that looks as good as it performs.

The bike pictured is over six months old now and gets ridden most days, as you can see it is still looking fresh as the day it was built, so quite something to be said for these bikes made in Halifax. Thanks to Orange and Hope for keeping the British theme going strong.

Does the Orange Alpine still shine as strong as the day I built it six months ago? Does it stand up to the current 160mm offerings? Has it been reliable? Yes on all three counts. Would I swap it? Yes for another one. But then there’s no need to.

www.orangebikes.co.uk

Thinking of buying an enduro bike? Check out our buyer’s guide HERE.

 

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